The Chilungamo Programme builds on decades of support by the EU to governance in Malawi. Chilungamo is a Chichewa word meaning justice, with its connotation of a sense of stewardship. It addresses the following objectives related to Governance in the National Indicative Plan (2014 - 2020):
The programme addresses two of Malawi's core governance challenges:
Weak accountability of institutions and the limited capacity of citizens to demand and claim their rights impact on all aspects of governance including democratic governance, domestic accountability and access to justice and the rule of law.
Chilungamo recognises that all of these aspects require a focus on both the supply and demand aspects of governance and thus includes support to many actors including; Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), National Registration Bureau (NRB), Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs (MoJCA), Judiciary and Prisons, as well as to the National Initiative for Civic Education (NICE), Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC), Legal Aid Board (LAB), civil society organisations (CSOs) and the media. Through this support, these actors will be able to play their oversight roles, increase access to justice, and hold duty bearers to account. Support to the Democratic Governance Sector (DGS) Secretariat is also included to assist the DGS to coordinate the sector.
ACP, Southern Africa, Malawi. The project is implemented in all districts of Malawi
Total Cost: 48 000 000.00
EU Contracted Amount: 48 000 000.00
Duration: May 2016 - July 2024
Implementing Organisation: European Union and Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs
Funding Instrument: European Development Fund (EDF)
In 1995, she lost a husband and a bread winner to a family of 14 children when her husband died leaving her destitute. Four years down the line, she got some relief when the Lilongwe District Social Welfare Office convinced her to release her youngest children – Mavuto, 4 and Maxwell, 5, to a foster home in Mchinji.
She obliged seeing how hard it was to raise them and the fact that “I was promised to be visiting them every month” – a promise that turned into a curse as that day in 1999, was the last Margret Bwanali saw her little boys.
Photo: The Ombudsman flanked by, Magaret Bwanali (R) and Mary Nsundwe (L)
For 20 years, she searched for her kids hopping from one office to another with no tangible help insight. She felt cheated and “I was convinced my children were trafficked by the government.”
“At one point I travelled to Thyolo just to follow an officer who had been transferred but still never got any assistance in my 20 years of searching,” she says.
This was the officer who had convinced her to release her kids to a foster home in 1999.
But hope returned recently. A colleague who had attended an awareness rally by the Office of the Ombudsman (OoO), encouraged Bwanali to seek help. She first approached the Youth Net and Counselling (YONECO) and later the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) who directed her to the OoO.
“This is a matter of official maladministration and I could not sit back. We needed to assist the mother,” says Ombudsman Martha Chizuma.
Tracing back the steps, the Ombudsman established that the matter had once been handled by the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) and the Ministry of Gender and Children welfare.
Finally, in 2020, when the OoO engaged the two offices, Mrs. Bwanali was able to smile again after the three offices mounted a joint file trace that led to the much sort after reunion, 20 years later.
“Seeing them all learned and grown into responsible men, can only be God. Madam Ombudsman, God should guide you,” she said when she finally met with her children, recently.
They first lived at Fosters Hope, a facility in Mchinji who found them foster parents they have grown to know as their parents.
The boys, shy to be in the lime light, refused to have much about them published but Maxwell is in Agri-business in Lilongwe, while Mavuto just completed his degree at the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) and continues to live with his foster mother, Mary Nsundwe, in Mchinji.
Through the European Union funded Chilungamo (Justice and Accountability) Programme, the OoO conducts clinics aimed at raising community awareness on how people can seek help from the office.
“The case of the two boys and their mother is just an example of how information shared during these awareness programmes is showing people the way,” says Ombudsman Chizuma.
The OoO is one of the seven beneficiary institutions of the Chilungamo Programme, others being the Malawi Police Service, Malawi Prisons Service, Malawi Human Rights Commission, Judiciary, Legal Aid Bureau and the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs.
Chilungamo programme is a Malawi government governance program funded by the European Commission under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) over an 8-year period (2016-2022) to the tune of EURO48, 000, 000.
The adage that justice delayed is justice denied is no longer an issue for debate for the people and authorities in Mulanje district where the Judiciary and Police are attesting to speedy trial of both criminal and civil cases than ever before.
The development, thanks to a refurbished court room which also saw the judiciary assigning a senior resident magistrate, Shaheeda Bakili there, has turned case statistics around, according to Morgan Numero the District Court Administrator of Mulanje registry.
Photo: Mulanje court room
“A comparison of case statistics from January to May 2019 and January to May 2020, reflects a rise in cases heard and cases disposed of,” he said.
According to available statistics, in 2019 (January to May) Mulanje Magistrate court had a backlog of 19 criminal cases and 79 civil cases. There is a downhill trend this year with a backlog of six criminal cases and 14 civil cases demonstrating the speed at which cases are being handled in the border district.
The development has delighted Assistant Superintendent Hartwell Kachikonga, Mulanje Police Senior Prosecution officer who said there is notable speed in the way cases are being concluded since the launch of the court at Mulanje Magistrate court in December, 2019.
He said “several people have been tried, sentenced or released the very same day, a demonstration of notable speed in the way cases are being tried and concluded.”
“This is what justice should look like,” he concluded.
The rehabilitation of the Mulanje Magistrate court is part of the European Union efforts under the Chilungamo (Justice and Accountability) Programme, to ensure that communities access timely justice.
At the launch of the Mulanje Magistrate court in December 2019, Senior Chief Mabuka said “delays in concluding cases is a serious problem in Mulanje” and hoped for better times with the refurbished courtroom and increase in number of magistrates.
The current status confirms the words of the Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda who stated at the launch that “court houses are not just buildings.”
“They are the symbol and face of justice. They represent how much we value justice and the rule of law,” he told the gathering.
The Chilungamo programme has for the last three years, provided support to various actors in the Justice sector in Malawi to support the efficiency and effectiveness in the delivery of justice, enhance citizen engagement in holding duty bearers accountable, promote democratic governance and support transparency and accountability of duty bearers.
The Malawi Judiciary has, this far, benefitted in the rehabilitation of five magistrate courts in Mulanje, Mwanza, Ntaja, Nkhotakota, and Mchinji; work is underway in Chitipa and Balaka with Likoma and Dowa in the pipeline.
“This will lead to an exponential increase in access to justice by communities in the beneficiary districts,” says High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal Registrar Hon. Agnes Patemba.
Her words ricochet feelings of the EU in the words of Ivo Hoefkens, EU Delegation to Malawi Head of Cooperation who said speedy and fair delivery of justice is essential for Malawi’s development.
Chilungamo is a five-year long programme which is working with seven beneficially institutions – the Judiciary, Police, Prisons, Ombudsman, Malawi Human Rights Commission, Legal Aid Bureau and the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs.
The story of one Mavuto Makala, 28, is an epitome of how coordination in the justice sector ensures service delivery that paints smiles on the faces of the underprivileged.
For starters, Mavuto, who stayed 11 years in illegal detention at Chilwa Reformatory Center in Zomba, was recently discharged by the courts and has since been re-united with his family at Ntcherechere village in TA Mwase, Kasungu district.
The sad tale is that Mavuto – who is both deaf and dumb – was detained that long even after the High Court sitting at Kasungu Magistrate court, had acquitted him of murder.
Photos courtesy of Titus Linzie, Yoneco FM
It started with the Youth Net and Counselling (YONECO) initiative which discovered Mavuto at Chilwa Reformatory Center. Yoneco then informed the Office of the Ombudsman (OoO) who initiated his release with legal representation from the Legal Aid Bureau (LAB), followed by the courts releasing Mavuto on Sunday, June 21, 2020.
The OoO, LAB and the Judiciary are part of seven beneficiary institutions under the European Union funded Chilungamo (Justice and Accountability) Programme. Others are the Malawi Police Service, Malawi Prisons Service, Malawi Human Rights Commission and the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs. The programme encourages coordination among players in the justice and governance sector for enhanced service delivery.
Mavuto was arrested in 2005 aged 12, accused of murdering his friend who drowned after he pushed him as part of their play. He was taken to Mpemba Boys Home in Blantyre as a child offender, before he was acquitted in 2009.
But since then, the kid had been at Chilwa Reformatory Center because police in Kasungu claimed to have failed to locate his home.
MacBain Mkandawire, YONECO’s Executive Director, whose organization facilitated the repatriation of the man to Kasungu, observed that it was pathetic that public servants’ sleeping on duty led to the suffering of an innocent child.
“This is a very shocking news we don’t want to hear as a nation,” said Mkandawire.
When she finally reunited with her son, Mavuto’s mother, Marita Banda, was over the moon.
“I can’t believe that what am seeing here is my child. He left when he was only 12 and a child but look now, he is 28 and he is a man,” she said.
She extended an olive branch to all who took part in Mavuto’s illegal detention because “all I wanted was my son; the rest is for God to handle.”
Group Village Headman Ntherechere, appealed to police to deal with suspects and convicts as human beings.
Perhaps the reason why the Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation insists that Mavuto should be compensated and they will push for that because, according to Executive Director Michael Kayiyatsa, “this is a serious violation of human rights”.